Man with a Guitar, 2000

May 1, 2024  :: 0 comments

Perhaps Braque’s man with the guitar was Frankie, the boy she used to play with in the subway not so many years ago. It was never about her, as her father and her husband and his family had reminded her so many times. Still Mary thought that she was looking at what she might have been, the Future of Man. …

Ode to My Washer-Dryer

featured in the poetry forum March 18, 2024  :: 0 comments

Stacked in a closet, heart of our ranch house,
you run through the night while I grade papers
read clickbait chew gum to stay awake.

Washer, you take all my clothes, even
the new pale green shirt that looks like silk.
Washed in cold water it doesn’t fade doesn’t tear.

Dryer, you take out wrinkles. I can trust
my linen pants to you. They will not shrink.
Even in hot weather I will glide to Metro.

Thirty years ago I would have dragged out
the iron Mom gave me, put in a little water
plugged it in and waited and waited.

I feared the iron’s mark on white silk blouses
black linen skirts. I feared the wrinkles
that co-workers with spiral curls would see.

But we own a house. I teach school. No time
for irons, no time for makeup. Our machine
thrums past midnight, steady heart of our house.

Never used, a small Ikea ironing board
leans against stacks of slides
and board games in our shed.

editors note:

The things we need to keep life wrinkle-free (and the things we don’t). – mh clay

MOMA, 1992 

March 2, 2024  :: 0 comments

The old man, Frankie’s father, used to like to sketch Mary, but she thought of herself as one of Braque’s collages, a still life made of wallpaper, newspaper, scraps of drawings, all at odd angles. But she wasn’t a still life. She was in motion – like this painting in front of her. George Braque’s Man with a Guitar. This …

Signs of the Future in 1962

featured in the poetry forum November 8, 2023  :: 0 comments

After B-1 (1962) by Matsumi Kanemitsu

Focus on the pendant: diamond shape
wrapped in gold foil trimmed
with lavender silk embroidered
with a sunset-colored flying fish.

Focus on the pendant: the one solid object
in this neighborhood of memories
the one light in late late dusk
as factory workers shuffle past.

Focus on the pendant: dangling
from venetian blinds the one trinket
seen in tenement windows while
the last bubbe tends dusty plants
sings Yiddish to them.

editors note:

Temporal star gazing. (See the art that inspired the poem here; scroll down to find B-1). – mh clay

The Blank Obituary

featured in the poetry forum August 22, 2023  :: 0 comments

Aged 99, Father Joe Koski died,
his obituary only his name,
his age, no place of death, no place of birth,
no life between.

His last days were spent in a single room
where night was always falling soundlessly.
Caregivers turned him every two hours, then
placed a cushion between his hairless legs.

Singing of the Glory of God, did they
(Nana, Precious, Emmanuelle, Celeste)
call him Father or Mister Joe? Did he
cry out like the others on his floor?

Or was he silent, unwilling or un-
able to speak, beg for mercy or for home?
Or did he speak, try to charm Celeste,
Nana, and Precious who changed him, washed him?

Did anyone know who he had been once?
The grim, young priest who mumbled Mass, his back
to the congregation as they filed in
early each morning before work.

The jolly priest who drove the altar boys
up to Whalom Park and bought them Dairy Queen
afterwards. The priest who said the folk Mass,
listened to Simon and Garfunkel, tried

to save the boy who drowned in Lake Whalom.
The boy’s mom shuffled into daily Mass
before work. She believed her son could not
be saved if Father Joe couldn’t save him.

The boy’s aging sister cannot believe
in priests and Mass anymore. All these years
she has been waiting, scanning the paper
for this blank obituary.

editors note:

If not the life, then at least a satisfying death. – mh clay

Walking to the Memorial Service

featured in the poetry forum April 22, 2023  :: 0 comments

As we walk down Sixteenth Street,
south past steady flow of traffic,
there is nowhere to cross.

We fear we’ll miss the service
at the cinderblock church steeped
in apple juice from day care,

in Joni’s aching ballads,
in words from the minister
who knew the deceased.

We contemplate not crossing.
We could just walk past
boxwood and brick ranches.

We could slip past this church,
past other churches, then storefront
funeral homes. We could

stop at the Jamaican bakery
just past the old Walter Reed.
We could turn around, go home.

Too far south of this street
we can’t cross is the city
people like us can visit:

the bridge with stone angels,
the one we crossed in cold weather
to sit with him at the Aster,

eat white pizza, drink boxed wine,
read poetry.

editors note:

When one drops out, we others keep walking anyway. – mh clay

Lovers In the World of Fire

featured in the poetry forum January 11, 2023  :: 0 comments

This world is a passionate place,
sky white-hot, clouds in flame,
ground the same color as sky.

Mountains keep lovers, the king
and queen, close. When they do hike,
they do not see desert flowers, small

cacti, sharp rocks, even the view
of the suburbs below.
They’d rather stay inside.

She’d rather trace his tattoos
on his back, the sleeve
on his brown arm.

They do not see the mountains.
They smash vases, shred designer clothing,
yearn to stay together.

Even if it means staying until
they turn to ash
like sky and ground

and the people who scramble
from tower to car to work
to stores below each day

and the people who die
without cool water, cool air
on sidewalks each night.

editors note:

To end in ash, that’s some fire. – mh clay

The Rapture: Scene From the Life I Did Not Live

featured in the poetry forum August 22, 2022  :: 0 comments

On the day after the aliens pull
the gun nuts, vote-suppressers, and judges
off our planet in a kind of rapture,
my friends and I tie red prayer flags to
thin trees beside my house. The sky is blank.
Spaceships no longer hover by mountains
no one climbs. Chimes sing in the wind. No trucks
drive past, slowing down to stare at us, old
women in long skirts like theirs, with uncut
hair like theirs. Our men watch Star Trek inside.
We can breathe now. I wonder what happened
to people we knew from work, from the coasts,
to those who thought they were going to God.

editors note:

God knows where no god goes. – mh clay

Tippecanoe Mall

featured in the poetry forum January 9, 2022  :: 1 comment

To my new friends, it was still the ‘80s.
They spent each long Saturday afternoon
wandering the mall, always looking,
never buying. Only I would return
with a bagful of cardigans and pencil skirts,
with flats and a girdle I never wore.

I wonder what my friends would make
of the dead malls of America now, stripped
of the brand names they wore on t-shirts
and baseball caps. Now Trees of Heaven
crack fountains, replace plastic palms.
Mold spills over fountains and white brick.

But Tippecanoe Mall remains,
or so late-night Google tells me.
I imagine entering the time capsule
where I recognize no one, only the stores.
I pass by men’s shoes; search for
Lazarus or Lane Bryant, both vanished;
stop at the store of smocked blouses and
long, pastel skirts, clothes we snickered at.

I imagine leaving empty-handed despite the lure
of those linen blouses and skirts. Outside,
in worse heat and humidity than lingers in memory,
I wait for the bus back to the city I knew:
brick sidewalks, the Wabash River, sites of the stores
women my mother’s age would remember,

the house I lived in, shaded streets I walked on.

editors note:

Then comes the day when what we remember is remembered no more. – mh clay

Expecting a Miracle for the New Year

featured in the poetry forum December 26, 2021  :: 0 comments

I stand watch over the still stream
where a turtle used to amble.
All I see are fish, the size of
bare eyelashes, flickering past
rock and crushed cans.

In summer I called this place dead
even though the turtle lived here
beside rocks green with plush algae.
Fish swam past. Leaves dangled over
rushing water.

In fall, one hour before dusk,
I peer into dull, dark water
for a sign, for a rock to move.
Murky yellow leaves hold their breath
as fish swim past.

I used to call this the dead creek
when the light revealed everything
and the turtle hid from its glare.
Now I see only reflections:
clouds and trees.

Tomorrow a smooth rock becomes
a turtle basking in weak sun.
Stay safe, stay safe, I will whisper
to this creature far smaller than
a young child’s fist.

editors note:

Hopes and expectations fill our movements from one rock to another, each year to the next. – mh clay